Saturday, September 12, 2020


You may notice that underneath some of the Google image photos accompanying each film, I wrote underneath a little caption. Usually a humurous or an attempt at such; it's something new I'm trying out. It's a new option along with Google Blogger's new layout, which, you know what, I wasn't enthralled with it at first, but I'm getting used to it and so far I mostly like it. It's still got issues, I can't figure out why I had to post the captions on inverted white text on inverted black background in order to be seen but, still, maybe they'll fix that eventually. (I hope so, that's come in real handy when/if I ever do my OYL Awards again.) 

Any it's 100x better then Facebook's apparent new layout which...- NO! Just, no! Bad Facebook! Bad Facebook! Stop trying to look like Twitter. 


Honestly I'm happy because at least now I had something to write about here. Not much else going on; I'm supposed to be doing my Emmy prediction, but I'm waiting to the last minute.... Anyway, let's get to the reviews. 

THE LION KING (2019) Director: Jon Favreau


Lion King 2019: what's better and worse about the Disney remake - Vox
Aw, look at the little kitty!

What the hell is the point of this? No, I know, to make money; I get this post-Renaissance Disney, turn every animated project into a live-action remake thing, but what the hell is the point of this?! Like, it's-, it's not even live-action! It's basically just...-, okay, you know how much shit we've given Gus Van Sant over the years for that time he did a shot-by-shot remake of "Psycho"? And deservedly so, what the hell was the point of that, Gus? Like, I've-, I've never really spoken much on...- look, I don't think, about Disney's recent trends, 'cause, while I think most of them mediocre-to-bad, to me, they're not distinctive enough to standout. They kinda just blur into all the other remakes and reboots of things I don't want remade or rebooted that Hollywood keeps inundating me with, and with Disney, I mean, at least most of the time, they're remaking decent movies to begin with..., usually..., (I'm looking at you "The Jungle Book". [Oh, come at me, the original is boring and forgettable except for the songs!]) However, like, this is just damn close to just doing to remaking the same movie shot-by-shot. I mean, I can play nitpicker here and compare-and-contrast the few differences, but..., why?! Why is this?!

Seriously, why is this?! It's an animated movie with no human characters to begin with, so a live-action movie, is just,- okay, I'm told there is actually one shot that wasn't composed in front of- I guess it's a greenscreen, but like-, this wasn't even like rotoscoping actors or CGI-ing performances a la, Andy Serkis's career..., or like Spielberg's severely underrated "The Adventures of Tintin"; this is just an animated, Gus Van Sant's "Psycho". What...- what am I supposed to do with this? Like, I don't love any of the other Disney live-action films, but the fact that they actually were live-action is something, and there is a beloved live-action version of "The Lion King", it's Julie Taymor's Broadway production, which-, I mean, they have "Hamilton" so-eh, do they have "The Lion King on Broadway" on Disney+? 

No. Do they have anything else on Broadway; Disney's had a lot of Broadway productions dating back to the early '90s they must've recorded one of them right?

(Disney+ search)

Tsk, "Newsies"; they have "Newsies". 


Well, that's a level of disappointment I didn't realize was possible....

Okay, so, to be fair, this isn't a direct remake of the original film. There's some added jokes and some scenes are cut or shortened, "Be Prepared" got paired down. They make a point to show how and why Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is such a bad King and also why Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) doesn't lead a revolt against Scar, which...- actually if I think about that for half-a-second, it makes her look like a complete idiot. They also show Timon & Pumbaa (Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner) are indeed not alone in their little slice of utopia and have several other animals that they live with, and many of which Simba (JD McCrary when Young, and Donald Glover when grown up) gets into some more complicated tentative friendships with as several of them are still afraid he'll eat him, despite him having become a full-fledge entomophagists. They also are more direct about Timon & Pumbaa's more nihilistic world perspective; I don't know why they wanted to be specific about that. 

Some of these choices are weird. Like, why not do something like combine Zazu (John Oliver) and Rafiki (John Kani) into one character? Come up with a change that could be minor but make the story more succinct? Or, maybe have Simba come to the realization that Scar killed his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his role) on his own, and before the main fight scene at the end?

Eh, maybe I'm just spitballing here because, and perhaps, and this is just me, but-, well, I'll be blunt; I've never really gotten why "The Lion King" is as popular and beloved as it is. I remember getting into a discussion with some friends some of the guys over at about that, and I was amazed so many "The Lion King" characters were particularly beloved by them. I do like the original a lot, but I'm still pretty reluctant in putting it in the "great" category when it comes to Disney. To me, among Disney Renaissance films, it's a distant third behind "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast". I will say this, the animation, or the photorealistic computer animated, it does look amazing, especially the more serious aspects of the fight sequences at the end, where it's not just Scar vs. Simba but the whole team.

However it's also too good. Honestly, I hate the effect. I didn't love it with "The Jungle Book" either, but that had a human character to compare and contrast with, so I gave it a pass, but here, the animals are too realistic with no human character to play off of. I don't usually have a so-called "uncanny valley" meter like some do, I generally don't think animation that's good, even if it's disturbing or creepy will never bother me with the story but, I already know this story; I've seen this story! And when the animals are this realistic, why even bother with, animated voices? 

Like, this whole movie, could be a silent film, and it would've been a lot better. Or, if you're gonna have animated voices, like, why not have it all seem like inner monologue and don't exaggerate the animals' behavior. It's funny to hear Timon & Pumbaa have an out-of-nowhere "Beauty and the Beast" reference, but don't have them talking, like have them, communicating it non-verbally, like it's a "Homeward Bound" movie? You accept this in hand-drawn, because talking anthropomorphic hand-drawn animated characters has long-been accepted and the unreality of them makes them more compelling. We're in their world usually, but here, they're in ours, and it just doesn't work.

I don't even know what rating to give this, it's probably the most impressive technically impressive of these Disney live-action reboots phase, but it's probably their most offensive one compared to the original. They've all been pointless and useless cashgrabs, with only "Maleficent..." doing something that's at least really different with their movie(s), but the main difference to them was that they were, "Live-Action"! This is an animated remake of an animated film?! 


I mean, sure, if you want to be technical, that's not even a new thing, but this so far is the movie where I think the remake excuse and reasonings for these films existing rings the most hollow. (At least among the ones I've seen.... I'm missing a few.) I'll credit the movie for having story adjustments that I mostly liked compared to ones I didn't, and the technical achievement the film is, is quite amazing and something to behold, but I really wish this was done with a movie worth watching instead of doing it with this.

BREAKTHROUGH (2019) Director: Roxann Dawson


I wish Chrissy Metz got better roles when not doing "This is Us".

Oh, Jesus Christ, do I really have to fucking review this? Goddammit, Academy, you couldn't find a fifth Song from a decent movie to nominate? Or even a really shitty movie, anything other then a Faith-based Christian film!?!?!?!?

"Maybe it won't be so bad." That's what I said before I heard this exchange in the movie.

"Why are you so hard on him?" a fellow Ministry member asks to Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) after she got into an argument with her ministry's new, young looking Pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace). 

"Well, that haircut for one?" she responds. 

Look, I'm not exactly one to talk about hairstyles, but lady, it's 2015 (in the movie), and you still wear your hair like Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"! 

Ugh, this one's gonna be torture. Yes, I've been dreading this one, it's the latest entry in the, "Some Christian movie got an Oscar nomination for Best Song, so I have to fucking watch it," category. Ugh! God, I almost wish Transformers movies were getting nominated again...- nevermind, no I don't, but this is still-, ugh. I've ranted about faith-based movies before, and they actually are a big enough segment of the Hollywood market to attract relatively big name, decent actors sometimes, but God, literally, whenever these things unexpectedly enter the world of legit artistic cinema, it is never a smooth fit. That's not to say "faith-based" or Christian movies can't be good, at times, but man, does it usually just not frickin' happen. 

I don't even know what to say about this one. Apparently it's based on a true story from a book by Joyce Smith, who doesn't look like she has "That Girl" hair in real life, about her adopted son falling under a frozen pond and surviving despite being trapped under ice for fifteen minutes. The kid, John (Marcel Ruiz) is in a coma for almost a week, naturally and yeah, the fact that he did in fact survive this is actually an inspiring story. Or at least it would be if the family wasn't so goddamn religious and everything was based around how, "Prayer" seemed to be what "healed" him. Along with the prayers and love and wishes of, the whole town. And OMG,- why do these stories all have some kind of local news reporter every night reporting on things that they almost certainly would almost certainly not be reporting on! 

Like, seriously, how are there always reporters with these stories? Do reporters in these movies just hang out outside hospitals for stuff like this? Or do religious reporters just think they do? Like, even in supposed "small towns" I don't think this is happens much. Like, I've known people who were injured and died from severe automobile accidents, and their stories like, never even made the local news here! 

Anyway, rant about stupid trope aside, I'll say this, Topher Grace, is really great as this annoyingly young and obnoxious pastor who somehow manages to preach about "The Bachelor" in connection with God. He's the pastor with the purportedly questionable haircut who stands as Joyce waits in the hospital room. The acting is generally okay here, but it is every awful idiotic trope of these movies. The black acquaintance, in this case the fireman who apparently heard a mysterious voice to turn around and find John behind him, that didn't actually happen and yet it's treated with this great gravitas and he's suddenly believing in, I don't know, some otherworldly thing.... The mother constantly talking about how important it is that John's brought on this earth, which seems really contradictory since it seems like God's spent a good deal of time trying to kill the kid off. (Or if not contradictory, then selfish....) I mean there's a way to tell this story and still have it be amazing, but it's so overwrought that you just don't care. 

Even the parts that are supposed to kinda gain sympathy, just-, like there's a scene in the beginning where John has to give some oral report about,- um, I don't know, who he is, or something, and he tells this story about his life and how he was born in Central America and was abandoned and now he's here, and that's like, it. Like, there's nothing more then that, he tells this pretty basically, with notes from a crumbled single sheet of paper, and I'm thinking like, "I don't know, C, C+ for effort if I'm being generous?" It's like character development of any kind other then, they're nice and go to church, they just don't have any concept of. Okay, the father, Brian (Josh Lucas) talks with his son about basketball sometimes. (Sigh) Nothing here you makes you care about these characters, except for the Pastor, who's at least different and interesting and I kinda am interested in him. And even he seems to be second-tier compared to his family that we barely see, but seems to outsmart him while trying to use his pastor-like antics at the dinner table. (Sometimes metaphors aren't the best way to explain some things.)

I don't know what to say here. Chrissy Metz, sings a song that was connected to the movie, not in the movie, she sings it fine; I forgot what the song is though, 'cause who cares. This isn't anything different or special from most similar films, the only real difference is the quality of the actors and the potential this one kinda had to be good if it had some other perspective, but it's ultimately really shallow in all it's thoughts on god and whatnot. It was well-made enough though, it was the feature debut by Roxann Dawson who's got a shitload of TV credits lasting decades, and took me twenty minutes of staring at her name before I remembered she played B'Elanna on "Star Trek: Voyager". Anyway, she's competent here; most of the problems with this film are on a script level. 

Maybe if this was John's perspective I might've found this interesting, instead of the mother's, I mean, he was the one that survived? Maybe? (Shrugs)

MOFFIE (2020) Director: Oliver Hermanus


Moffie review – swooning eroticism in apartheid South Africa | Drama films  | The Guardian

Okay, this is a bit weird for me. Let me explain, the first time I ran across "Moffie" is was nominated for multiple Bifa Awards, they're the UK equivalent to the Independent Spirit Awards. This was in 2019, and while the movie was a critical hit, it didn't get any kind of official release, theatrical or otherwise, as far as I can tell, in the U.S. That's not entirely strange, not all British films, especially British independent films make it to the U.S., but something that is also strange is that it didn't really get a theatrical release in Britian either. Not in 2019 anyway; it got an internet release in the UK last Summer, and has yet to hit American..., well, almost nothing's hitting American theaters right now,.... And I assume that's partially why it didn't hit British theaters either, although it's a little odd that something that gets nominated for those awards in particular doesn't get much of a release there. I guess it's not entirely uncommon; there's been a few Indy Spirit nominees I can think of that seemed to also struggle to get even DVD releases afterwards, but usually I kinda pinpoint some reasons for those occurances; I'm not sure I can pinpoint them for "Moffie". 

It seems like, this should've been a little bigger release..., I guess coronavirus might've pushed a release to the internet..., but I don't know, this one was hard for me to find in America, even for a movie like this, with it's pedigree and background, I suspected that I would've found it a little easier then I did. It's based on a pretty well-known novel, and it's a co-production with UK and South Africa, 'cause it's about, apartheid.... In fact, it's about a very specific aspect of apartheid, being gay during apartheid. Gay, and in the military. The latter, people were generally okay, although they really shouldn't have been considering if this was the military, 'cause this was a very disturbing basic training sequence. It's not "Full Metal Jacket", but some of this is pretty degrading and nauseating, fair warning. 

Okay so, it's the early 1980s, and there was a conspriction rule where all white men age 17-60 were to spend two years in the military, so most kids signed up young, I suspect. Now this is the minority apartheid military, the SADF for short, and they were actually in, somewhat of a war back then. I mean, yes, they were at war with their own citizens, the Blacks, and we do see just how sickening that was, but they also had a border conflict with Angola, who was back by Communist Russia and China? It's a lot more confusing then I'm explaining it, 'cause this was a prolongued conflict that across several borders and countries and tribes, and other Civil Wars kinda fell into this thing as well, but basically, it was a draft, and white male teenagers were going to join a racist minority regime's military to fight in several stupid wars. 

"Moffie" is an Afrikaan derogatory slang for gay, it's basically their equivalent of faggot. The film from director Oliver Hermanus is based on a biographical novel by Andre Carl van der Merwe and follows two young men as they come to the realization that they're gay in this environment that doesn't accept it. Nick (Kai Luke Brummer) is the main character so we mostly see the film through his experience. It's clear that he knows he's different, and struggles to understand his homosexuality, and meanwhile he tries, and usually fails to, especially with a fellow soldier named Dylan (Ryan de Villiers) who spots his fears quickly. 

There's a sequence that I think is a flashback where we see a Young Nick at some kind of public gathering at a pool or lake, one with public showers where he may or may not have been staring at someone, and some guy basically berates him and bring him into authorities for it, even though he's just a kid. It's really, degrading, and it's-, honestly it reminded me of the story of Ham from Genesis with how much the humiliation sentiment is. I guess I never think about this, but pretty much all forms of fascism have some inherent machismo elements to it; honestly I dismiss machismo just be nature, but it exists and especially in such racists fascists regimes, anything that seems like weakness and homosexuality has that stigma for some reason. "Moffie" is another devastating reminder of just how much that runs through dictatorial governments, as well as one more reminder of how dehumanizing they are, especially apartheid which specifically aimed to dehamunize and destroy such villains as the "Black Danger". 

"Moffie" is worth watching for that alone, on top of the powerful filmmaking. It's not an easy watch, but it's an essential one. 

BEATS (2020) Director: Brian Welsh


90s UK rave culture film, 'Beats', official soundtrack: Listen |
Wind it Up! Wind It Up! Equal Rights and Justice in Time! Wind! It Up!

In 1994, the British parliament passed something called the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. 

I'm not always entirely knowledgeable about the intricacies of British laws, so I wasn't aware of this before watch "Beats", so I was amazed and confused by it. Apparently, this was conceived as an attack on modern youth culture in the country, which in the UK in '94, would mean, raves. I gotta be honest, I never got the big deal about raves, but I tend to not be particularly enthralled with any kind of parties or get-togethers, but I do know that rave culture was the big thing during that time. There were other aspects of this law, much of which basically gave police the power to commit hundreds of civil rights violations against the most ostracized members of the youth. Not that, I don't get why they might want to curb this culture; raves, then and now are mostly known for drugs but they were about beats, and music, which were indeed banned. 

So in a sense, holding, throwing and being apart of a rave in Scotland at this time, was protest, revolution essentially. Shot in black & white and looking almost like the same equipment "Clerks" was made on. "Beats" is similarly a story of two young men Johnno (Christian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn MacDonald) two best friends whose lives are about to be separated. Mainly because Spanner, god bless you, but he's the kind of friend who forces himself upon your life because he's doesn't know better. He's only parenting figure is Fido (Neil Leiper), who's mostly a local goon. Johnno's parents, his mother Alison (Laura Fraser) and stepdad Robert (Brian Ferguson) don't much like Spanner, and they're probably right. That said, this is one last night and they're gonna have that experience, them and plenty of others. 

I keep reading reviews where this movie is getting compared to "Footloose", 'cause of the stupidity of the law I guess, but that was a stupid local law in that film, which took place in a Norman Rockwell fantasy, and the punishment wasn't, getting beat up by the cops. This was a national law, one that both parties failed the public on. "Beats" was based on a play by Kieran Hurley and captures a real time and place, sometimes recent and not fantastical. I've seen better comparisons made to films like "Trainspotting" which, I'm not the biggest fan of either, but that is an appropriate comp. I'm not the biggest fan of early '90s British rave era music, but the culture didn't deserve to die out like this, even if perhaps the people in it I might find bothersome. Also the movie does give us some great imagery of experiencing the rave and the hallucinogenics we might also be on during it. It's the first film I've seen from veteran Scottish filmmaker Brian Welsh and it's a very impressive feature. I don't know much of his other work, but this could easily have looked and seemed like the amateurish aesthetic that the film's going for, and it would've been fine, but he finds a way to tell a simple tale of youths having one last bash before their lives change forever and give it extra context and meaning, and creates some eerie disturbing parallels to today. Another reminder that things don't happen in a vacuum. 

BIRDS OF PASSAGE (2019) Directors: Christina Gallego and Ciro Guerra


birds-of-passage | Sundance Institute
...but narcotics is the thing of the future.

If you've watched enough South American cinema, you'll recognize that a lot of it has a particular sound to it. It's the sound you hear when characters are traveling alone through particularly desolate terrain, sometimes it's the deserts or rainforests of the continent. If you've ever seen the Nelson Pereira dos Santos film "Vidas Secas (aka Barren Lives)", you'll know the sound I'm talking about and you'll never forget it. It's that constant, unnatural eek. It could be the sound of an axel wheel turning or the sting sound of some undiscovered fly or insect that you can hear but can't see. Yeah, that sound, that foreboding wail that sounds like an Ennio Morricone leftover sound. That literally screeches South America films, especially norther South America, like Columbia. 

"Birds of Passage" is the latest from "Embrace of the Serpent" director Ciro Guerra as well as the co-directorial debut of Christina Gallego and the movie is an episodic epic that traces the true stories of the indiginous Wayuu people and how their lives were effected on the rise of the marijuana trade out of Columbia. The Wayuu are an ancient indigineous tribe in South America, located mainly in the Guajira Peninsula; that's that weird little part of Columbia and Venezeula that sticks out in the Caribbean Sea? (Just trust me, you'll see it on a map when you look for it.) The movie is separted into four cantos or songs, beginning with Zaida Pushiana (Natalia Reyes), who is part of one of the richer Wayuu families. Rapayet (Jose Acosta), proposes to her, but her mother Ursula (Carmina Martinez) requests a high dowry on her. It's the late '60s and American peace corps volunteers are looking for marijuana and Rapayet takes advantage of the opportunity to get in the trade to pay the dowry. Over the years though, things get dangerous as he's working with Gabriel (Joaquin Ramon) right as his cartel is getting into a violent war with the competing cartel lead by Moises (Jhon Narvaez). After Gabriel's killed, he then works with Anibal (Juan Batista Martinez) and eventually over the decades the money, the trade and the war escalate from there. 

Honestly, I can't think of too many movies about the drug trade that essentially documents the beginnings of it like this. Usually they're about, how they're already there and how somebody takes over the trade and turns it into an empire. The best South American film like that is Fernando Meirelles's "City of God", about the history of the Rio de Janiero drug trade, but Columbia is the country we always think of with the reputation. Even then, most stories of the country focus on it's most famous druglord, Pablo Escobar, but he was a Latino and he based his trade mostly in Medellin; he wasn't the only one and it's easy to forget that drug culture effects everyone. We especially see it, as they try to keep up with the traditions and values of their Peoples, despite this being a world where such things are basically ancient practices. It's hard to care about sacred objects when they're killing each other regularly with the pull of a trigger; although honor and family pride for murder that's a tradition that can adapt more naturally. 

"Birds of Passage" is an interesting historical document into both the birth of the Columbian drug trade, as well as a rare look into at an indigineous culture and how their adapting into the modern Eurocentric world and the struggles that that entails. Gallego & Guerra have an intriguing eye for finding stories and visuals that we haven't seen much of before. 



Review: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is provocative animation -  Polygon
"Camera rolling, now pull the chicken's head off..."

I don't know why I'm so tickled by the idea of an animated biopic on Luis Bunuel. Perhaps it's just something I didn't realize I wanted, or perhaps in hindsight, I'm just amazed that Bunuel, as far as I know, never did anything with animation, which is kinda surprising in hindsight. Bunuel is cinema's great original surrealist filmmaker and what form of filmmaking is more surrealistic then animation? God, can you imagine what Bunuel would come up with today, especially this young, very young Bunuel, who was still surrealist and with a bit of an anarchist streak. In fact, his second feature, "L'Age D'or" got him labeled as a heretic, which is part of why he's struggling to find work afterwards despite critical acclaim.

"Bunuel in the Labyrinth of hte Turtles" tells the story of his third film, a short documentary called "Las Hueres", or as I know it, "Land Without Bread", which was about a then-little known area of Spain that was known for being practically a walk into the past with how behind-the-times they were technologically based on the idea by Ramon Acin, a member of the Anarchist Movement in Aragon at the time. He was technically a co-director, but wasn't credited for that, or for producing the film for decades after Franco took over and killed him and his wife, and labeling him as forbidden. It's a pretty little known early aspect of Bunuel's life, I myself am gonna have to look this film up myself, 'cause I haven't seen it yet, and based on the footage, it basically seems like surrealist neorealism mixed with, well, animal abuse. Well, more then usual animal abuse, which is probably why this movie was animated.

It was directed by Salvador Simo; it's his debut feature and the movie showcases both Bunuel's friendship with Acin, who funded the film with lottery winning. It also dives into Bunuel's mind and past, which is a lot in of itself, especially with his realization that the local school takes in orphans from around the country on the government's dime, which triggers much of his childhood pain. I actually watched this film twice just to get a true grip on it, and I'm definitely recommending it, but it probably helps to know, not only Spain's history around that time, which...- man, the more I learn about 20th Century Spain the more I realize how kinda screwy that whole country is, but also, get a peak into the early stepping stones of Bunuel's life. Bunuel's such an interesting figure; he made great movies on three different continents and like his then-rival/former friend, we remember the older aged man, the iconic legend of him, but their youths were filled with rebellion and rage, and by comparison their later work, while still firmly in the world of the dreams and surreality, the only real documents of their youths are their works, so anything that documents their rebellious youths is a delight to see. For that alone, as well as a look at the dark, forgotten part of European history, it's definitely worth the watch.

PENGUIN HIGHWAY (2019) Director: HIroyasu ISHIDA


Penguin Highway Blu-ray Review
"I guess it is a shortcut, but the traffic is still bumper-to-bumper."

This animated feature about mysterious penguins sightings in Japan is way too obsessed about boobs.

I tweeted out that sentence when I knew that I had to write it, 'cause..., well, when you get the combinations of words in orders like that, you kinda just think you should show people. I was still in the middle of the movie, 'cause, secret, I'm usually writing notes and even much of the review as I'm watching it, so, it's a sentence, that's a little bit,- well, it's not an exaggeration, boobs are in fact a plotpoint but most of the focus is on the penguins. Penguins, as well as, something called "The Ocean" which looks likes they recast the alien spaceships in "Arrival" with Nickelodeon's old silver pinball logo, but.... okay, let's start at the beginning.

"Penguin Highway" is the debut feature for Hiroyasu Ishida, and is the first film I've seen from Studio Colorido, which is not a misspelling of Colorado; it actually means "Rich in Color" and the film is. For anime, this is definitely a beautiful film that feels heavily inspired in its look by the works of same of the big Studio Ghibli filmmakers. Although, it's not necessarily, as good, animation. This movie had a few scenes where it seemed like they like to cut away from action scenes one or more times too many for many. Not necessarily big ones, but the little ones that annoyed, like cutting to a mobile while a character was say, tearing a page from a magazine. Anyway, minor annoyances like that aside, the movie is indeed about mysterious sightings of penguins that pop up in an inland Japanese town one day. A young fourth-grade scientist, names Aoyama, who narrates the film in the beginning, as he literally counts the days before he becomes an adult. As he investigates along with his friend Uchida, while he also pines for a similar science nerd classmate, Hamamoto who's good at chess.

He hypothesizes that the penguins travel together along a path, like a highway, but can't figure out where they come from, until a similar friendship he develops with a dentist's secretary, named, um-, well, in the English language dub that I watched, she was usually called either "Miss" or "Lady" but apparently her name is One-San, she's the- I-, I guess she's technically an adult in the movie, but I suspect she's still pretty young, early twenties at the oldest? It matters that she's older, especially to Hamamoto who has a crush on Aoyama, while she fights off a crush from a class bully idiot, Suzuki, who also torments Aoyama. Anyway, on top of, apparently having-, boobs that seem different then others..., ([Shrugs] I don't know) she's apparently the source of the penguins as she apparently has the ability to turn anything into penguins. She demonstrates this by throwing a soda can in the air in order to help pull a loose tooth out of Aoyama.


This movie is making me write some weird sentences..... She also, in the right circumstances can conjur up bats or Jabberwockys. Yes, jabberwockys, and since we're at it, and I don't know when I'll have time to bring this up again, but the jabberwocky is the most overrated reference to "Alice in Wonderland" out there. Can we stop bringing up jabberwockys as a reference, they're not as memorable or notable as people think they are to that text....

Anyway, Hamamoto is also investigating the giant silver ball, "The Ocean", which does resemble water in it's malleability and the way it can generate waves and increase and decrease in size suddenly, even though it's mostly a giant, levitating silver ball of something.... This is the latest animate I've seen, also that uses water as a destructive metaphor; get used to that anime lovers, but I didn't mind it too much here. Despite the strange creepiness of the filmmakers with their obsession with young men fascinated by older women.... (Why is that a motifs that's coming up in these films too though?) "Penguin Highway", is an interesting...-, I guess this is kind of an "E.T." narrative, or one of those other films where the group of kids seem to go on adventures beyond their normal knowledge and experience, and the adults are either trying to take over their project or give perfect symbolic advice that eventually sets up what the solution to their issue is. 

I guess that's an interesting genre choice, but I've never been the biggest fan of the kids-go-on-their-own-adventure narrative; I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I legitimately think "The Goonies" is one of the all-time worst movies ever made. I'm not being facetious with that, it's in my bottom ten of all-time; when I watch it, I cheer for the highway to be built; I think it's atrociously bad and unwatchable. This obviously isn't in that bad a league, but it's one of those movies that in hindsight you wonder just how off in their own little worlds these characters are. 

It's also the latest magical older girl that's probably not human that the main character's attracted to, after "Weathering with You" that I've seen. I think that movie's better for borrowing from a better narrative arc, plus the animation is better. "Penguin Highway" is more strange and fascinating then even "Weathering..." as we're watching more or less just to figure out how or why all these things are connected. I'm not exactly sure I entirely like the answer, but it's good storytelling while we get to it, even if some parts of it were a little too out there.

EVELYN (2019) Director: Orlando von Einsledel


Evelyn | Netflix Official Site
"You know, we'd be there by now if we had driven?"

The word that kept coming to mind when I was watching "Evelyn" was "helpless". Or "Helplessness" I guess. I don't know too many people personally who have committed suicide, certainly nobody as personally as a brother, but based on the thoughts and stories in this movie, that's the feeling that I was overwhelmed with. Just "Helplessness". Every time I see or hear about committing suicide out of the blue, especially a celebrity of some renown, the discussion always goes to mental health.... I'm not entirely sure suicide is always a mental health issue, but I imagine that most of the time, those who do commit suicide truly needed help and for one reason or another couldn't get it, and those who loved them, wish they knew, or wish they could help.

The film's director is Orlando von Einsiedel, you might know for his Oscar-winning short film "The White Helmets" as well as "Virunga", he's a globe-trotting documentarian, usually going where the stories are, especially war zones, however this time, he looked inward. His brother had killed himself at age 22, shortly after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was thirteen years ago and his family and friends never really got over it and they decided to take a hiking adventure through England, through many of the places that Evelyn loved to hike through and finally confront their thoughts, and emotions. And all of it, would be filmed. Admittedly, it's a bit contrived, but there's lots of personal documentaries like that too though. It's fascinating to see this family talk and argue and remember the best and worst times. They're still trying to figure out what they could've done and are still quite guilty for not doing more, or if they could've. It does feel wrong; I'm not a spiritual guy but, the notion of someone being born and then they take their own life, and so young, and he was mentally ill; why even have mentally ill condition like schizophrenia take can lead to somebody doing stuff like that. Someone you loved like that too....

It gets ya, and it gets to these people, and god bless them, maybe it's unfortunate that it took thirteen years and a family trip to get to those realizations or maybe thank god that we can compartmentalize and, I don't know, go off and film the country of Syria falling apart or get shot at in The Congo to push those feelings aside until now, when they can deal with them. Either way, "Evelyn" is both a tribute to a brother but also a tribute to all those who've lost loved ones, and it's a pleasantly brutal and touching examination of what it means to continue on in the shadow of a loved one's choice to end their life.

FIDDLER: A MIRACLE OF MIRACLES (2019) Director: Max Lewkowicz


Miracle of miracles | The Jewish Standard

So-eh, I didn't know exactly what I was getting into when I put on "Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles"; I think kinda just assumed it was about the history of fiddles, or a fiddlers. I think part of this was that I was confusing it for a film called "Fiddlin'" which is a documentary about fiddles that I know is also coming up on my viewing list soon as well.... Anyway, um, after a minute I realize it was a documentary about "Fiddler on the Roof" and that's when I shut the film off, because, well, I until then hadn't seen "Fiddler...".

I know, I know.... It was on my Netflix queue, and thankfully it was streaming on Netflix, so I watched the old film version that Norman Jewison directed and-eh, I liked it a lot. I finally get were a lot of those songs that have been spinning around in my unconscious for years have been. I think the second act was depressing, but I wasn't surprised by that or anything. It's actually quite a powerful film.

Anyway, now that I got that done with, "Fiddler..." is the story of the musical, and the history of it along with a lot of discussion about it's importance and relevance. There's a lot of talking heads, including many actors and performers, other cultural commentators. Since I'm still in "Hamilton"-mode, Lin-Manuel Miranda talking about the importance of the musical for him, definitely peaked most of my interest, and not just because he performed "To Live" at his wedding with his father-in-law. That's not at all as strange as you'd think for somebody who's such a musical theater nerd obsessive/epert, but yeah, a Puerto Rican marrying a Dominican performing from the most Jewish of Jewish musicals. 

The history of Jewish and Yiddish theater is basically the roots of the modern American theater in basically the same way that the delta blues is the roots of rock'n'roll music; "Fiddler..." is of course much more recent, and it's about, well, "Tradition!", obviously. I like that there's a great story that's told about Jerome Robbins finally getting that word out of Harnick and Bock, and instructed them to write it as the opening number, and he refused to stage it for weeks afterwards, and then did it in the afternoon. It's admittedly, nutty, but it's kinda brilliant; writing musicals are hard, harder then most writings and the path it takes to get to a great musical is just mind-boggling to investigate sometimes; if you think movie screenplays go through several drafts, stage musicals are an editing/re-editing nightmare, even the best ones. 

I didn't know Jerome Robbins named names to HUAC and that caused a riff between him and Stein; that-eh, that was shocking to me. The play was after that, and fresh after that,... awkward. Still though, the amazing thing is just how beloved and universal this play is, despite being really specific to the Jewish narrative. It's based on Shalom Alechim stories, the great Yiddish writer, and it's about Russian Jews who are soon to be kicked off their land by the Czar at the turn of the 19th Century; the notion that this can play and appeal to nearly every culture imaginable is amazing. It's said that somewhere in the world, "Fiddler on the Roof" is being performed, and we see a lot of great clips from several shows, and literally everybody performing the music from it. Did you know The Temptations did a cover of "If I Were a Rich Man"? I mean, it seems like everybody's covered all these songs, though, but that one stood out, along with a lot of '60s talk shows doing random numbers outside of context, including "Fiddler..."'s first Tevye, Zero Mostel.  

"Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles" is a beautiful tribute and examination of the widespread influence "Fiddler on the Roof" has become and remains. It's amazing how powerful and malleable the musical is, and how influential it remains. I mean, I can see a lot of influence of it in many of my favorite musicals even today. It's probably not the most in-depth documentary out there, but it's catnip for me, and I probably would've appreciated more if I had more then a day to have watched "Fiddler on the Roof" before watching this, but for those with more of a lifelong appreciation of the musical, this is definitely worth watching and enjoying. 

Now to see it live, once that becomes an actual option again....

FOR THE BIRDS (2019) Director: Richard Miron


Award Winning Documentary For The Birds Screens In LA - Vegan News, Plant  Based Living, Food, Health & more
In the future, filmmakers, make sure your title isn't the same as a Pixar short.

So-eh, you've heard of the trope of the "Crazy Cat Lady" right? Well, "For the Birds" is a documentary about a Crazy-eh, Bird Lady. Well, that's not entirely fair; she had chicken, ducks, turkeys, geese..., you'd think I'd be talking about a farm, wouldn't ya? Or a bird sanctuary or something, but Kathy Murphy is in fact, an animal hoarder. Somebody who collects and hoards extreme numbers of animals, especially when they're not really in the best position to take care of them. She's beyond that though.... She definitely cares about them, but she's also clearly, not in the right frame of mind to have that many birds.

At first, after authorities are called; they try to be, a little tentative with getting the birds out, allowing her to keep some, and have others taken to the vet to deal with some illnesses, but still trying to explain to her that they have to take away the birds. At one point, even one of the animal sanctuary representative admits to feeling like she's lying to her. That might be so, but I think if they told her the truth right out front, she wouldn't have believed it and still claimed that they were lying.

The story actually made local and then eventually national media once they came in and took all her birds, and she began fighting them in court. Her and her lawyer, who also seemed a little in over his head too. However, she was greatly upset at how she didn't like how they characterized her treatment as abusive. Like, she's not entirely wrong, from her perspective she wasn't being abusive, and she didn't like, physically harm any of the birds. In fact, her infatuation started by her raising a couple injured ducks to health, but you know, when the-eh, animal sanctuary can post viral videos of Kathy's ducks swimming in water for the first time.... I mean, you care for her, because she clearly needs some care. Her longtime husband Gary finally gets frustrated and moves out after she doesn't.

The movie follows these characters, and the birds until after the trial and she's not allowed to have animals legally. It takes awhile, and even after she loses her husband, she still tries to hoard secretly, but eventually her family gets involved and she begins to get better by the end.

"For the Birds" is, an interesting documentary, enough to recommend I guess..., but I can't really say much more about it. I'll be honest, I've spent three day almost trying to write this review, and it's not because it's not a good movie, it's just, there's not much to say about it. It's an interesting look into modern-day hoarding, but except for the fact that it's focus in on bird hoarding it's not exactly a new topic. The film was directed by Richard Miron, who's mostly a documentary editor until now, most notably for "Life, Animated". I've seen worst less essential documentaries. I don't know what to say; perhaps my mind's just foggy from the pandemic, but I've been thinking about it for days now... it's an okay documentary, there's just not much special about it unless you really care about the subject matter. I think the subject matter is worth documenting, and it's documented well-enough, so I'm recommending it, but there's not much more then that.

SUPPORT THE GIRLS (2018) Director: Andrew Bujalski


Maybe this is blasphymous for some people, but I'm vastly preferring Andrew Bujalski's more Hollywood-style indy rom-com sellout aesthetic then most of his early Mumblecore meanderings. Maybe part of this is that he's picking way more interesting locations and characters to focus on, maybe it's just that he's got better actors and a larger budget, I think a lot of it is that he's stopped focusing on trying to say something important or witty and whatnot and is just taking his slice-of-life aesthetic and transporting it into more conventional but fun genres. His previous feature, "Results" a romantic-comedy about competing gym owners was a revelation to me. It was both funny and interesting, and a genuine love triangle rom-com, which alone we hadn't seen much of/enough of lately, much less a good one. 

"Support the Girls" isn't a rom-com, it's more in the tradition of his earlier slice-of-life works, but it's so much more fun and interesting, and it has the feel of something far more substantial. It might just be that Regina Hall is a force of nature. The movie's advertising promotes her as the star of "Girls Trip", since that probably is the thing most people would recognize her for now, but she's been around forever and this is one of her very best performances. And it's a big performance, she's on screen for what seems like every scene until she finally isn't and that's when things go to shit. She plays Lisa, the manager of a local Hooters-rip off sports bar called "Double Whammies". (Apparently, and I swear to god I didn't make this up, there's actually a word for these kind of restaurants; they're  called "breastaurants".) It's a fight night, and she's dealing with several personal dramas. The first being that one of her waitresses, Shayna (Jana Kramer) who's staying at her place after she apparently ran over her abusive boyfriend's leg the night before, and she had to bail her out. She decides, after an early morning of job interviews and tryouts, and a quick strange detour of an attempted robbery that failed because the guy got stuck in the airduct, she organizes a small "Charity" carwash to "Support the Girls", which is code for, giving her money to presumably get a lawyer. 

The carwash, isn't technically allowed according to the business practices. of Double Whammies, which is actually a little bit difficult to tell what they are, 'cause Lisa's boss Cubby (James Le Gros) is either MIA or trying to fire her, or, just in his own world really. At one point, Lisa gets fed up with the conversation she's having with him in his car during a drive and he just loses it on a another rider and just gets out and calls her husband Cameron (Lawrence Varnado), which is where we learn that they're in the middle of separating as well. 

It's hard to tell if Double Whammies is truly a chain, or if it's localized, but apparently there's one rule about only allowing one black waitress on staff at a time, which is probably illegal, but Lisa has to figure that out. She's understaffed on a fight night day, and she has to coerce one of her waitresses to convince the guy to install/fix the television system.... (Sports bar without TV, worst investment ideas, ever.) She fires one girl, Krista (A.J. Michaela) rather politely because she got a tattoo, which is also against the rules, especially since it's fairly visible. Not sure I get this rule either, distracting or obscene tattoos are one thing, but I think nowadays tattoos in these kinds of places would be reasonably accepted.(Shrugs) Anyway, she's fired, but she hangs around to drink and have fun. There's other things, one girl's secretly dating a customer, another, Danyelle (Shayna McHayle, who's also known be her rap name, Junglepussy. [Yes, I am only mentioning that to get the words "Junglepussy" and "Breastaurant" in the same review]) is a single mother who's kid is often with her during the day, as the babysitter comes to pick him up at night.  

When she finally leaves and heads home, we see, well, there's a bunch of scantilly clad twenty-year-old-ish girls at a restaurant and they're angry that they're beloved boss is no longer there and there's no one, really taking charge.... Things-, things get out of hand. It was around this scene that, essentially, Regina Hall's job is essentially a Stripper Mom. Maybe this is the Vegas in me talking, but the way that she prioritizes the treatment of her girls, and the customers and making sure everything was a specific way, and tries to be everything for these girls. Mom, boss, friend, sister, etc. It's when that trust is broken that she flips out, but she flips out, those devoted to her, also stray away. I don't know what commentary to make of that observation there is, whether that says something about these breastaurants or this kind of managing style, or this culture of hiring young attractive women to essentially sell their bodies along with chicken wings being similar selling their bodies, on a stage or not, I'm- I'm not gonna go there anymore then I have, but I think the movie wants to show how positive this Lisa character is and it does that. Regina Hall does a lot and seems to do so much of it, effortlessly. This is a wonderful performance that holds this great cast together. It's strangely nothing too do deep, but it's so a beautiful tale about a regular day and the people who occupy a location like this. This is the kind of movie that could make a great play, or even a TV show. At the end of "Support the Girls", I wanted more of the movie, and I wanted to know more about the characters and what happens to them afterwards. I'm sure if this was expanded into other mediums, that the movie might be, the kind of thing that people who do actually work in places like these might not particularly enjoy, perhaps being a little close to reality, but I enjoyed this immensley. 

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